Statutory Public Health Insurance (Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung, or GKV)
Contributions to statutory public health insurance are legally stipulated and uniform rates that apply throughout Germany. They are deducted from an employee's gross salary by the employer. As of 2015, the contributions are 14,6 percent of income with 7,3 percent paid by the employer and employee, respectively. The range of medical services this insurance comprises hardly varies from provider to provider, differing only in terms of customer service, additional (voluntary) services or optional services for an additional charge. Many health insurance providers charge an additional contribution (Zusatzbeitrag) to the 14,6 percent that varies depending on the provider, and which is fully paid by the employee.
You have free choice of health insurance provider. Before signing up with one it is important to compare terms and benefits carefully to find the health insurance provider that best suits your individual needs. If you wish to bring your family with you to Germany (spouse, children), they can be covered by your health insurance with no extra charge (Familienversicherung, family health insurance). Even if your spouse and children do not live with you in Germany you can still obtain family health insurance for them if they live in a country with which Germany has a social security agreement.
Unlike with private health insurance, it is your health insurance provider that will be billed for any medical treatment you receive (unless it is a medical service that is not covered by your health insurance provider). All you need if you go to a doctor is your electronic Health Insurance Card (eHealth Card, or elektronische Gesundheitskarte), with the words European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) printed on its reserve. This insurance card is issued only by statutory health insurance providers. It is valid not only in Germany but can also simplify the process for receiving treatment during temporary visits abroad within Europe. You will be eligible for medical treatment in any other EU member state, as well as in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, and to the same extent as residents of those countries. The costs will be paid at the same rate as they would if incurred at home, but if the costs exceed that amount you must pay the difference.